Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament, 14th-18th February

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14th-18th January

I finally arrived in Westminster on Monday afternoon after a long journey, the trains having been disrupted by high winds and flooding. A hectic week followed, peppered with meetings and debates on subjects as diverse as mental health referral systems and sea-bass fishing regulation. On Friday afternoon I left London for Brussels, where I have spent the weekend as a NATO Parliamentary delegate at a defence and security conference. Next week is Parliamentary recess and I am looking forward to meetings and visits in the constituency. 

MONDAY

Syria

On Monday the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP, delivered a statement regarding the UK's response to the crisis in Syria. Ms Greening began her statement by describing the humanitarian disaster that the country is experiencing: 'inside Syria, 13.5 million people are in desperate need, while a further 4.6 million people have become refugees'. Ms Greening spoke of the success of the government in bringing “over 60 countries and organisations, including over 33 heads of State and Governments”. The London conference was able to secure a record-breaking pledge “amounting to more than $11billion”. Delegates committed funds for the education of over 1 million refugee and host children and “made a critical choice on supporting jobs for refugees and economic growth in the countries hosting them”.


Later on in the week, it was announced that historic progress had been made on negotiating a 'cessation of hostilities' in Syria. Though the details of the deal remain unclear, there is hope that Russian and US Coalition airstrikes will be scaled down over the coming weeks and that humanitarian aid will be delivered to besieged areas.
Trident

The prospect of a vote on the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapon programme before the summer has provoked a lively debate in the about whether to support the retention of the capability. It is the Labour Party's policy to retain the Trident submarines. Following a 
meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on defence policy on Monday night, I composed a 'tweet' supporting the Party's policy which generated considerable attention:
 'Oh dear oh dear omg oh dear oh dear need to go rest in a darkened room'. The Prime Minister even mentioned it in PMQs!
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TUESDAY

House of Commons Defence Select Committee

On Tuesday morning, the Defence Select Committee took evidence from retired Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall, a former Middle East adviser at the Ministry of Defence, as part of its inquiry into UK military operations in Syria and Iraq.

I asked Sir Simon about the strategic implications of our increasing inability to identify DAESH militants:

Is the move into the tunnels, the increased inability to see the Daesh fighters, and their integration into civilian communities, making our capacity to carry out air strikes less effective?

Sir Simon replied:

Very. You referred earlier, Mrs Moon, to our rules of engagement. Again, I am not criticising them. We know the moral high ground, the damage you can do reputationally and to the strategic aim of what the Russians are doing unconstrained. But there is no doubt it makes it difficult for us by not having our own intelligence assets on the ground, by not being able, probably, to be close enough to the local people to get the local information, by having to fight ISIS within the confines of the populated areas, by their resort to tunnels. The tunnelling is an interesting capability that is crossing over from Hezbollah, Hamas and Gaza Strip. I remember one Kurdish expert—he has a double-barrelled name; you will know it—talking about the tunnel system by Kirkuk and saying that we need to put some of these sensors out on the ground. We know from when the ISF went into Ramadi that it was about not only the booby traps and IEDs, but the tunnelling.

There is nothing new here. People who fight in urban areas have always very sensibly mouseholed though buildings or gone underground between open areas precisely to avoid our surveillance assets, to move equipment and supplies, and to form strong points. But it makes it difficult for us, because we are not close enough up front to begin to strike areas with confidence that we are having an effect on them and their military capability.

Sir Simon clarified that these developments do not necessarily indicate a failure of our policies or the inadequacy of our intelligence-gathering methods. As our experience of previous conflicts has demonstrated, whenever a militant organisation is under heavy bombardment in a built-up area, it will retreat to using these sorts of tactics.

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WEDNESDAY

As Chair of the Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention APPG, I co-hosted a meeting to discuss triage mental health referral systems with James Morris MP, Chair of the APPG for Mental Health. Bridgend-based Psychiatrist Dr Bob Colgate discussed his experiences of using a triage scale to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the local mental health referral process. Dr Colgate's hope is that the scale, developed by a team led by Professors Natisha Sands and Stephen Elsom, will have the potential to improve the accuracy of decision-making in mental health referral systems. Dr Colgate's presentation was followed by a lively discussion, at which Public Health Minister Alistair Burt and Shadow Minister for Mental Health Luciana Berger were present.
On Wednesday afternoon I attended the launch of the NSPCC's 'It's Time' campaign which calls for greater access to high quality therapeutic services for victims of child abuse. 
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THURSDAY

Business Questions

After a hectic few days the Parliamentary week drew to a close on Thursday. I attended Business Questions in the morning where Shadow Leader of the House, Chris Bryant MP, brought his polemical powers to bear on the Government's ill-considered Trade Union Bill. He also paid a touching tribute to Harry Harpham MP who passed away this week and wished a 'Happy Birthday' to Dennis Skinner who turned 84 this week.

I wanted to bring the House’s attention once more to the ongoing tragedy in Syria. The ongoing humanitarian and refugee crisis has reached a crucial point and I think that it is vitally important that the House be allowed a whole day debate regarding just how we can take responsibility for that crisis. I asked:

Every day, we see tragic pictures of people fleeing the horror of Aleppo. We see the anxiety building as they are refused entry into Turkey and there is the fear that they will make their way across the Mediterranean into Europe. May we have a whole day’s debate on the international crisis facing the world that is flooding out of Syria and on how we can take responsibility for that crisis, which has largely been created by the Assad regime and Russia? 

Recreational Sea-bass fishing

Later on Thursday afternoon I took part in a debate on recreational sea-bass fishing. Although I neither eat fish nor angle, I am an MP for a coastal resort with a with a thriving bass-fishing sector. It is widely acknowledged that there is an urgent need to rebuild bass stocks; it is an environmental and economical imperative. In December 2015 the EU Fisheries and Agricultural Council met to formulate a package of measures and regulations; the agreement that was reached was both unfair and ineffective. Recent developments in the regulation of recreational and commercial bass fishing, have exposed a rotten relationship between industry and government, both in the UK and across the EU:

I may not be an angler, but I know nonsense when I hear it. The EU Fisheries Ministers, in conjunction with UK Ministers, are talking nonsense when they try to spin this fix-up as a considered and environmentally sound policy. They falsely claim that bass gillnet fishing has a minimal environmental impact; that the measures are beneficial both for the commercial fishing sector and for bass stocks; that, because drift netting has been caught by the moratorium, bass stocks will increase; and that drifting accounts for 90% of all bass fishing.

I fear that the Government has been ignoring and distorting the evidence, much of which was produced by its own agencies. The transparency and credibility of Government decision-making is at stake. 

Google provides evidence at the Public Accounts Committee

Google executives were called to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, following  public outcry at the revelation that the company paid just £130 million to HM Revenue and Customs over the last 10 years. At one point, the Google president of Europe, Middle East and Africa appeared unable to provide details of his salary, illustrating the disconnect in values and expectations between the company's leadership and the people who use its services. Caroline Flint reflected this in her question to the panel:

The public tuning into this will be asking themselves, how can a massive company like Google, with all the expertise that it hires, how can HMRC not, in real time, tackle the problems of how you pay your tax?

During the previous week's evidence session, as part of the Committee's Inquiry into Contracted out health and disability assessments, the Chair Meg Hillier referred to a letter I had written to the head of Atos, David Haley. I had recently met Mr Haley in my capacity as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Motor Neurone Disease and Parkinson's. 

You’ve said all that. We’ll hold you to it. My colleague Madeleine Moon, the MP for Bridgend, who is heavily involved with the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Parkinson’s UK, attended a meeting with you, Mr Haley. She has written to you since, but as you are here I will ask you this question. Her letter says, “It would be helpful to have clarification as to the qualification of the health professionals employed by Atos.” I will ask the other two as well, as you are here. “In the meeting, David”—that is David Haley—“said that Atos ‘do not employ doctors’, which surprised us. If that is the case, who are the health professionals that Atos employ, and what experience is necessary to become an Atos health professional?” We’ve heard a lot about your training. Leslie Wolfe, you talked about that at great length. This is to Mr Haley first, and then we will take Capita and MAXIMUS. Do you employ any doctors? And what about all these specialist health conditions? Can you really train people up to deal with them in a generic way?

Mr Hayley replied:

We do not employ doctors to work on the PIP contract; we employ nurses, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and a range of health professionals, all of whom have a minimum of two years’ qualification in their field. I talked about the condition insight reports. The job of the assessor is to understand how the individual presents and their functional capability. An understanding of the impact of that is important...

The Weekend

I have spent a busy weekend in Brussels as a NATO Parliamentary delegate at a defence and security conference. 
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